Across the Table with President/CEO Mark Banta
By Annierra Matthews
Shuffling in my seat, I prepare to meet the face of the Piedmont Park Conservancy: President and CEO Mark Banta. He walks in with his typical jolly smile, and his token bottle of water. This month, the Conservancy is celebrating all of the pride for beautiful Piedmont Park. So this week, we wanted to hear it from the top: what is there to be proud of Piedmont Park?
I start by asking “Why should neighbors and friends be proud of Piedmont Park?”
“Piedmont Park attracts over 4 million diverse visitors every year deriving from 134 zip codes,” says Banta, “The Park is neck and neck with Stone Mountain for the number one free place to visit in Georgia.” The park offers free access to over 200 acres to the Atlanta community and its tourists.
Also, Banta tells us that 88% of those visitors agree that Piedmont Park has enriched their life. “That is a statistic we should be very proud of,” he says.
Then I was curious and asked “How do you show your pride in Piedmont Park through your role as President and CEO?”
“[Being proud] is all encompassing in the job itself,” Banta says. “The role of the CEO is to make sure all the parts of the team work together to create the environment that we want: the customer service experience, the physical beauty of the park, and the programming. These are the elements that touch the public.”
I ask him what his favorite part of Piedmont Park is, and Banta gave me a direct answer. “I am proud that there is something for everyone,” says Banta, “the park is so big and active that different people with different interests all have something to find in Piedmont Park.”
“In what ways have your seen the local community show they’re proud of Piedmont Park?” I ask.
“When we have individuals who are willing to take their time—reducing their free time, exercise time or dog-walking time—and they instead come and invest it in Piedmont Park, then they are giving back to us,” he says. “They are being proud of this being their park, and they take ownership.”
“You’ll see people walk by and pick up and piece of trash, and you’ll see people say, ‘Hey, you have to clean up after your dog,’” Banta answers, “or they’ll tell the staff, ‘Thank you for what you do.’”
In addition, Banta shares another way the community expresses their pride for Piedmont Park. They recount memories and describe passion for the Park to the people in their lives. Fans “share their experiences with people through social media by posting pictures and sharing their stories,” he says.
I express to Banta that being the CEO to such a big park seems challenging. Banta responds that he “doesn’t look at being the CEO as a challenge, but rather an opportunity.” He describes the immense amount of possibilities for Piedmont Park and how the Conservancy is working every day to fulfill those dreams. “We just need to keep working on communication, be true to ourselves, and tell people who we are…then it gives them the opportunity to understand the importance of the Conservancy, appreciate that and support us.”